Ralf Rangnick has been tasked with restoring the fortunes of struggling Premier League giants Manchester United.

His previous work at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga has sparked speculation regarding possible transfers.

That has led to talk regarding Amadou Haidara.

 

TOP STORY – HAIDARA WANTED AT OLD TRAFFORD

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick wants to make RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara his first signing, according to The Sun.

Rangnick has been appointed until the end of the season and talk of January incomings have already emerged.

The German brought Haidara to Leipzig during his time at the Bundesliga club and he is believed to be interested in reuniting with the 23-year-old star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and El Nacional reports United want Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, having rebuffed a proposal for Philippe Coutinho.

- Portuguese journalist Pedro Almeida claims Jose Mourinho's job as Roma head coach is in danger following another defeat, this time 3-0 to former club Inter in Serie A on Saturday. Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure amid just three wins in nine league games. Mourinho has also been linked with Everton as pressure mounts on Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both interested in Paris Saint-Germain forward Mauro Icardi, says Ekrem Konur. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Juventus.

- According to The Sun, Ligue 1 giants PSG are lining up a bid for Wolves' left-back star Rayan Ait-Nouri.

- Widespread reports claim Leipzig are seriously considering the sacking of head coach Jesse Marsch, who only replaced Julian Nagelsmann at the start of the season. Leipzig have lost three consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time in their history.

After a grand total of one day without Premier League football, the action returned on Saturday and there was a change at the top of the Premier League.

That's right, Chelsea slipped up again and handed the initiative to Manchester City and Liverpool, both of whom were victorious later in the day.

There was also a change at the bottom as Newcastle United left the foot of the table – at least until Sunday – meaning there are three sides all on 10 points in the relegation places.

Without any further ado, let's look at the best of the day's action with a pick of Opta's post-match facts…

West Ham 3-2 Chelsea: Blues dealt Hammer blow

Chelsea are off the Premier League summit as a result of their defeat at London rivals West Ham, who continue to confound doubters under David Moyes.

They found themselves behind at the break but came on stronger in the second half, becoming the first team to beat Chelsea after the Blues had been leading at half-time since Wolves in December 2018 – that was a run of 48 games unbeaten when ahead at the halfway mark of a game.

Further to that, it was only the third time in Thomas Tuchel's 53 games in charge that Chelsea have conceded more than one goal in a game.

One of West Ham's goalscorers surely felt confident – after all, Manuel Lanzini's goal was his 11th in London derbies, or 48 per cent of his Premier League total (23), the highest ratio of any player in the competition's history with at least 20 goals scored.

There was also a first to celebrate. Arthur Masuaku opened his West Ham account in his 96th match, with the left-back's momentous goal also proving to be the winner.

The win moved West Ham to within six points of their visitors, with the Hammers fourth.

Watford 1-3 Manchester City: Hornets are cannon fodder

Even if Pep Guardiola's City did not arrive in fine form, few would have given Watford a chance here – and the match went just as most were expecting.

Watford's record against City was woeful at best already – now they've conceded 41 goals in 13 meetings with them in the Premier League, the most they have let in against any single side in the competition.

Similarly, the 3.2 goals per game they concede on average in this fixture is the most by one side against another among all Premier League fixtures played at least 10 times.

That one-sided nature also reflects on Guardiola, who has won all 10 of his managerial games against Watford in all competitions by an aggregate score of 42-4, his best 100 per cent winning record over any side.

City are now unbeaten across their past 19 meetings with Watford (W17 D2, all competitions), netting 62 goals in this run – they've only ever had a longer unbeaten run once before against a specific team (22 games against Norwich from 1965-1981).

Wolves 0-1 Liverpool: Origi comes up trumps as Reds steal it at the death… again

It wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but Liverpool got the job done to move above Chelsea and stay just a point behind new leaders City.

Only just, though.

Divock Origi spared Jurgen Klopp's blushes with a stoppage-time winner, the Belgian continuing his habit of being a decisive and useful option off the bench.

That was his 10th goal as a substitute in the Premier League for the Reds, a club record.

Liverpool have now scored the winning goal after the 90th minute on 39 occasions in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other team.

There was also good news for Mohamed Salah – he didn't score, but his assist for Origi's winner ensured he's been involved in a goal in each of his last 13 top-flight appearances, a record only Jamie Vardy (15) has ever surpassed.

Newcastle United 1-0 Burnley: Howe's about that?

At long last, every team in this season's Premier League now has at least a one in the wins column – Newcastle defeated Burnley at St James' Park to finally get off the mark.

Newcastle had not won any of their previous 15 matches in all competitions, losing seven and drawing the other eight.

Additionally, it was only their second clean sheet of the season, the other also coincidentally coming against Burnley in the EFL Cup back in August.

Of course it was also Eddie Howe's first win since being appointed by the club, with Callum Wilson – who also played under the manager at Bournemouth – delivering the goods.

It was Wilson's 43rd Premier League goal for Howe, a record only Joshua King (48) has bettered for him.

While it remains to be see if Howe is able to keep Newcastle up, there's no doubt he's got them playing on the front foot more, as they are averaging 15 shots (five on target) each game compared to 11 (three) prior to his arrival in 2021-22.

Southampton 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Saints give it up

Just when Southampton thought they had the points in the bag, Brighton pulled it back.

Brighton were down to 10 men, having had Leandro Trossard taken off injured after using all their substitutes, but Neal Maupay struck deep into stoppage time to seal a draw.

That was Brighton's fourth (of eight) away Premier League goal to have been scored in the 89th minute or later this term, and the third netted by Maupay.

Brighton remain winless in 10 league games, their longest top-flight run since 1983, but they celebrated it like a win – for Southampton, it felt like a defeat.

Saints have now dropped 71 points from winning positions in the league under Ralph Hasenhuttl, 15 more than any other team since his December 2018 appointment.

Having only just finished an exciting batch of midweek games, the Premier League returns with the potential for more drama, goals, and perhaps some fantasy points to boot.

Everton boss Rafael Benitez will be hoping to arrest his team's downturn in form when Arsenal come to Merseyside, but despite defeat at Manchester United on Thursday, the Gunners have a couple of form players to keep an eye on.

Antonio Conte will be looking to continue a promising start at Tottenham as they host Norwich City, and it will be no surprise to anyone if one of his wing-backs ends up having a decisive impact again.

Another electric wing-back has returned for Brighton and Hove Albion in recent weeks; Manchester City boast one of the form players in Europe; and the bottom, two teams look to their star strikers for much-needed points.

Plenty of fantasy teams are just as desperate for points, so here are Stats Perform's suggestions for possible picks ahead of the weekend, powered by Opta data.

AARON RAMSDALE (Everton v Arsenal)

Aaron Ramsdale has been rather busy since his arrival from Sheffield United, and he faced another ten shots on target from United on Thursday.

However, he has broadly impressed in Mikel Arteta's side, and ranks third in the Premier League this season for goals prevented (2.57).

He is also set to face an Everton side fresh off a chastening Merseyside derby defeat, and who have scored only four times over their past six league games, the joint-fewest of any side in the division with Wolves.

 

SERGIO REGUILON (Tottenham v Norwich City)

Conte's new Tottenham side are unbeaten in their opening three league games, the Italian head coach utilising a three-man defence again after successes with Chelsea and Inter.

Sergio Reguilon has been the main beneficiary of the change in system, with the left wing-back directly involved in a Spurs goal in each of his last two league games, scoring against Leeds United before assisting against Brentford last time out.

The Spaniard next faces strugglers Norwich, who have scored the fewest goals of any side in the Premier League this season (eight), while conceding the second-most (28).

 

TARIQ LAMPTEY (Southampton v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Tariq Lamptey played an integral part in Brighton snatching a late equaliser against West Ham as he crossed in for Neal Maupay's acrobatic brilliance in the closing minutes.

The Englishman was brought on with 20 minutes to go and, as an impact sub, did exactly what he was asked to ensure Graham Potter's men did not return south empty-handed.

The right wing-back ranks fourth for chances created per 90 minutes among defenders in the English top flight this season, creating 2.4 opportunities on average as he prepares to face Southampton.

BERNARDO SILVA (Watford v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola hailed Bernardo Silva as the best player in the league after the Portugal international nailed an expert first-time volley in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

The 27-year-old, who reportedly wanted a move away in the previous transfer window, has scored four goals in his last seven league games for City, as many as he had in his previous 55 in the competition.

With the reigning champions perhaps a striker short still, Silva will continue being of central importance for City's attacking returns as they travel to Watford.

 

EMILE SMITH ROWE (Everton v Arsenal)

Emile Smith Rowe may have converted in bizarre circumstances at Old Trafford, but as many fantasy players will tell you: they all count!

The England international has had a hand in eight goals in his previous 11 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal (six goals, two assists), with only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bettering that total this season (nine).

He heads to Benitez's Everton, who have conceded more goals than any other team in the league over their last six games (15).

 

TEEMU PUKKI (Tottenham v Norwich City)

There is one man for the job of keeping Dean Smith's Norwich away from the Championship and that is Teemu Pukki, a budget fantasy favourite for the Canaries.

The Finland goal poacher has managed three goals in his last four top-flight outings, as many as he had in his previous 24 appearances.

Indeed, if Norwich can breach Tottenham's resurgent defence, it is likely to be Pukki, who has scored five of his side's eight goals this term.

 

CALLUM WILSON (Newcastle United v Burnley)

In similar fashion to Pukki, Newcastle United's attacking hopes largely rest on the shoulders of Callum Wilson, who converted from the penalty spot in his last game against Norwich.

Another cheaper option compared to the likes of Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Bournemouth man has scored 17 Premier League goals for the Magpies.

That is more than twice as many as any other player for Newcastle since he joined the club at the start of last season, and Eddie Howe will be hoping his main man can deliver once more.

Cashed-up Newcastle United are currently sitting last on the Premier League table, without a win with the season into December.

As a result, the Magpies are expected to be busy when the transfer window opens in January.

Newcastle are the only team yet to win a Premier League game this season.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE TARGET ENGLISH SEXTET

The Telegraph claims that Newcastle United have six English players on their January shortlist, including Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, Tottenham's Harry Winks, Chelsea's Ross Barkley and Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier.

According to the report, the club will hand over a blank cheque to manager Eddie Howe to land players who can make an instant impact.

Newcastle's owners are confident they can act swiftly in January despite their ongoing search for a sporting director. Burnley's James Tarkowski and Liverpool's Nat Phillips are also on their radar.

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports that Arsenal are tracking Everton's England international forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a view to an end-of-season move, as Alexandre Lacazette's replacement.

- Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani wants to join Barcelona next season claims The Times.

- Milan and Internazionale are both lining up bids for Manchester United's Brazilian full-back Alex Telles according to The Sun.

- The Sun claims that Chelsea loanee Saul Niguez is unhappy at the club and wants a switch in January after joining the Blues on loan from Atletico Madrid in August. However, Saul cannot join a third European club this season, complicating matters.

- Talks between Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele have failed to progress, putting in doubt his future at the club, reports Sport.

Denis Zakaria looms as an attractive signing, with his contract due to expire.

The Borussia Monchengladbach star is not short of admirers.

Liverpool and Barcelona are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – ZAKARIA TO LIVERPOOL OR BARCA?

Liverpool lead Barcelona in the pursuit to sign Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria, according to El Nacional.

Zakaria is available on a free transfer at the end of the season and the Switzerland international has been heavily linked with Jose Mourinho's Roma.

He has also reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, however, Premier League giants Liverpool and LaLiga powerhouse Barca are believed to be set to battle it out.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Anfield and Fichajes claims Liverpool have joined the race to prise Adama Traore from Wolves. Traore has also been linked with Barca and Juventus.

Paul Pogba is unlikely to sign a pre-contract agreement with a club abroad, says The Athletic. Pogba's United contract expires at the end of the season and Frenchman has been tipped to join either Real Madrid, Juve or Paris Saint-Germain.

- Premier League champions City are working to re-sign Riyad Mahrez, per The Sun. PSG are reportedly eyeing the Algeria international, who is contracted to City until 2023.

Newcastle United are set to make a move for Donny van de Beek, according to El Nacional. Van de Beek has found his chances limited at Manchester United and Newcastle are ready to pounce.

- After appointing Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season, The Times claims United's interim manager is targeting RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara.

Mikel Arteta concedes Gabriel Martinelli deserves more game time than he is getting at Arsenal and says the forward is pushing hard to play a greater role for the Gunners.

Martinelli was on target as Arsenal defeated Newcastle United 2-0 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, just 93 seconds after replacing Bukayo Saka – who had opened the scoring.

The Brazilian has played only 367 minutes across nine appearances in all competitions this season, with just four of those as part of the starting line-up.

His goal against the Magpies was his first of the campaign, while he has yet to register an assist from the five chances he has created.

But Arsenal boss Arteta believes the goal can act as a springboard for a player whose attitude continues to impress the Spaniard.

"It is a big moment for him and I'm especially happy for him because how he behaves," Arteta told Arsenal's official website of Martinelli.

"Some players are respectful when you make some decisions, and some players are very respectful, like he is.

"He's patient, but at the same time he's really pushing and challenging and it makes every decision that you make even harder because he deserves more and I'm really pleased because he really helped the team to get the points."

Martinelli's goal was his first Premier League home strike since January 2020, with 679 days having passed between the efforts.

He has had fewer than 15 minutes of top-flight action since August, but Martinelli accepts there is a need to be patient.

"Yeah I need to be patient as I always say, if I play 10 or 20 minutes, I have to play well and be ready to play," Martinelli said.

"I love the fans, I'm so happy to be here, playing for this club and I'm so happy for the victory.

"We knew that the game was going to be hard, but we came prepared to the game and I'm so happy.

"To be fair I don't remember [the goal]. I think Martin [Odegaard] played it wide to Tomi [Takehiro Tomiyasu] and I just thought I'd go to the box and try to head it, and I finished the ball. I'm just happy to score the goal."

Liverpool were in typically ruthless form on Saturday as they brushed aside Southampton 4-0 at Anfield.

The result meant Jurgen Klopp's men became just the second English top-flight team to score two or more goals in 17 consecutive games in all competitions, after Sunderland in 1927.

Elsewhere, rock-bottom Newcastle United's winless start to the Premier League season continued as they were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

Steven Gerrard secured his second consecutive win since taking over as Aston Villa boss, with his side sealing a 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United played out a goalless draw at the Amex Stadium, as did Norwich City and Wolves at Carrow Road.

Here, Stats Perform looks through the pick of Saturday's Opta facts…


Liverpool 4-0 Southampton:Jota at the double for rampant Reds

Liverpool have now scored 39 goals in their 13 Premier League games this season – their highest total at this stage of a top-flight campaign.

Diogo Jota got them on the way with their earliest goal in the Premier League (one minute and 37 seconds) since Naby Keita netted against Huddersfield Town in April 2019 (15 seconds).

Another from Jota and a strike from Thiago Alcantara put Liverpool 3-0 up at the break, before Virgil van Dijk rounded off the scoring early in the second half.

Netherlands international Van Dijk's goal was created by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who earned his 40th Premier League assist. Only Wayne Rooney (22 years and 200 days) and Cesc Fabregas (21y 188d) have reached such an assists total in the competition at a younger age than the Liverpool right-back (23y 51d).

Salah reached 150 Premier League goal involvements by setting up Jota's second, reaching that total (108 goals, 42 assists) in just 171 games. Only Alan Shearer (148 games) and Thierry Henry (163) have got there in fewer games.

Southampton, meanwhile, have lost more away games (14) and conceded more away goals (47) than any other side in the Premier League side this calendar year.


 

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United: Gunners cruise against Howe's beleaguered men

The Gunners continued their fine home form under Mikel Arteta with a routine win against Eddie Howe's struggling side.

Since Arteta's first home game in charge in December 2019, only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have won more points at home in the Premier League than Arsenal (67).

Bukayo Saka got them on their way before Gabriel Martinelli added a second just 93 seconds after coming on as a substitute. It was just Martinelli's second Premier League goal at the Emirates Stadium and his first since January 2020 against Sheffield United.

The Magpies, meanwhile, became the sixth different team to fail to win any of their opening 13 games to a Premier League season, with four of the previous five sides suffering relegation (only Derby County in 2000-01 survived).

Crystal Palace 1-2 Aston Villa: Gerrard's winning start continues

This victory meant former Rangers boss Gerrard became only the second manager to win his first two Premier League games in charge of Villa, after John Gregory in February-March 1998.

Matt Targett scored the opener for Villa with his first Premier League goal in his last 75 appearances in the competition, the full-back having not netted since getting a late winner against Brighton in October 2019.

John McGinn then added a second, the Scotland international already equalling his best goal tally for a full Premier League season (three in both 2020-21 and 2019-20).

Marc Guehi pulled one back in stoppage time, but it was too late to prevent the Eagles suffering a first defeat in their last eight Premier League games (W2 D5), since a 3-0 away loss to Liverpool in September.

Norwich City 0-0 Wolves: Smith maintains unbeaten start

Dean Smith followed up a win in his first game in charge of the Canaries last weekend with a hard-fought point at home.

Norwich have now taken seven points from their last three Premier League games (W2 D1), more than they had in their previous 25 in the competition (W1 D3 L21).

The Canaries have also kept two clean sheets in their last four Premier League home games – as many as in their previous 26 at Carrow Road in the competition.

It is perhaps no surprise they could not find a way past Wolves, with only Chelsea (five) and Liverpool (four) keeping more away clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Bruno Lage's men (three).

Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal for their patience against Newcastle United after a lack of "composure" in the first half of their 2-0 win.

The Gunners opened the scoring for the 17th top-flight game against Newcastle in a row as Bukayo Saka drove into the bottom-right corner.

Gabriel Martinelli doubled the lead just 93 seconds after his introduction as the Magpies became the sixth different team to fail to win any of their opening 13 Premier League games of a season.

Arteta was pleased with the showing given his side's 4-0 defeat to Liverpool last time out.

"I am happy with the points after losing [to Liverpool]," Arteta told BT Sport post-match. "You have to win straight away. Overall, I'm pleased.

"The word was we had to be patient. We had to play with urgency and rhythm. That's what we did in the second half. We found spaces and that's how we scored the goals."

Arsenal attempted 12 shots in the first half – the second-most attempts in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game this term, behind Manchester United's 15 against Aston Villa – and Arteta felt they were a little too trigger-happy early on.

"When you have chances, you have to put them in the net," he continued. "In the first half we shot from every range without composure."

A slight dampener on the Gunners' win came when Saka was forced off in the second half and Arteta explained the 20-year-old "wasn't comfortable" after "he felt something."

However, he was delighted to see Saka's replacement Martinelli score his first Premier League goal since January 2020 just 93 seconds after coming on.

"The movement, the pass from Tomi [Takehiro Tomiyasu] is great," he added on the second goal. "It's really difficult to keep the ball down when it's flying over your head but that's what he can do."

Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were on target as Arsenal edged past Newcastle United 2-0 in Saturday's Premier League clash.

Mikel Arteta's side saw their eight-game unbeaten league run end at Liverpool last weekend, while Newcastle, with Eddie Howe in the dugout for the first time, were the only winless team in England's top four tiers after 12 games.

Jonjo Shelvey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both struck the woodwork in the first half at Emirates Stadium before Saka eventually broke the deadlock after 56 minutes.

Substitute Martinelli added a second just 93 seconds after his introduction as Arsenal moved level on points with fourth-placed West Ham, who play Manchester City on Sunday.

Saka poked narrowly wide and Martin Dubravka excellently parried away Martin Odegaard's free-kick as the hosts looked to score first for the 17th consecutive top-flight meeting with Newcastle.

Aaron Ramsdale then pushed Shelvey's long-range attempt onto the crossbar before Aubameyang inexplicably hit the right-hand post from point-blank range following Emile Smith Rowe's saved header.

Saka's low drive was denied by Dubravka after the interval, though there was no stopping the 20-year-old when he drilled into the bottom-right corner after Nuno Tavares' offload.

Martinelli, who replaced Saka, doubled the damage 10 minutes later with a volley past the incoming Dubravka from Takehiro Tomiyasu's chipped pass.

Substitute Jacob Murphy looked to respond but prodded wide as Arsenal continued their 22-game unbeaten run against sides starting the day bottom of the table.

What does it mean? Gunners see off Magpies again

Arsenal attempted the second most first-half shots in the Premier League this term without scoring (12), behind only Manchester United against Aston Villa (15), but were made to wait for their breakthrough.

When that eventually came, it appeared a straightforward task for Arteta's side, who collected their 17th win in 18 top-flight meetings with Newcastle to move level on points with fourth-placed West Ham at least temporarily.

Lovely Lokonga

Albert Sambi Lokonga was the key to keeping Arsenal's creativity through the middle as he proved to dominate the midfield battle against Shelvey and former Gunners midfielder Joe Willock. 

The ex-Anderlecht man was unlucky to not assist Saka in the first half with an incisive deep cross, one of a game-high six key passes – one more than the whole Newcastle team combined.

Nu-no need to shoot

Tavares delivered an underwhelming performance in the 4-0 crushing at Liverpool, but still retained his spot ahead of Kieran Tierney at left-back.

The 21-year-old enjoyed a lot of room down the left flank but was incredibly wasteful, blasting a game-leading six attempts from seemingly any angle with none of those finding the target.

What's next?

Arsenal travel to Manchester United on Thursday, while Newcastle will continue searching for their first win when they host fellow strugglers Norwich City on Tuesday.

Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were on target as Arsenal edged past Newcastle United 2-0 in Saturday's Premier League clash.

Mikel Arteta's side saw their eight-game unbeaten league run end at Liverpool last weekend, while Newcastle, with Eddie Howe in the dugout for the first time, were the only winless team in England's top four tiers after 12 games.

Jonjo Shelvey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both struck the woodwork in the first half at Emirates Stadium before Saka eventually broke the deadlock after 56 minutes.

Substitute Martinelli added a second just 93 seconds after his introduction as Arsenal moved level on points with fourth-placed West Ham, who play Manchester City on Sunday.

Saka poked narrowly wide and Martin Dubravka excellently parried away Martin Odegaard's free-kick as the hosts looked to score first for the 17th consecutive top-flight meeting with Newcastle.

Aaron Ramsdale then pushed Shelvey's long-range attempt onto the crossbar before Aubameyang inexplicably hit the right-hand post from point-blank range following Emile Smith Rowe's saved header.

Saka's low drive was denied by Dubravka after the interval, though there was no stopping the 20-year-old when he drilled into the bottom-right corner after Nuno Tavares' offload.

Martinelli, who replaced Saka, doubled the damage 10 minutes later with a volley past the incoming Dubravka from Takehiro Tomiyasu's chipped pass.

Substitute Jacob Murphy looked to respond but prodded wide as Arsenal continued their 22-game unbeaten run against sides starting the day bottom of the table.

Xavi wants Ousmane Dembele to stay at Barcelona amid rumours of interest from Newcastle United.

The Premier League side, bankrolled after their takeover by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium, are expected to spend heavily during the January transfer window.

Barca winger Dembele is said to be a target, with a report in Sport on Friday suggesting the player's agent, Moussa Sissoko, is prepared to listen to offers as he is not happy with the Catalans' new contract offer.

The France international, a €105million signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has made only two Champions League appearances this season due to injury problems but is in the squad for Saturday's LaLiga game at Villarreal.

Dembele's time in Spain has been blighted by fitness problems, but he remains a dangerous player when available. Since his arrival, Dembele has managed 30 goals and 20 assists in 120 games, a total bettered by only four players, while his average of 1.9 chances created per 90 minutes is second only to Lionel Messi in that time among players to make more than 14 appearances.

Head coach Xavi has made it clear that Dembele is firmly in his plans.

 

"I had an individual chat with him," Xavi said on Friday. "I made it clear to him how important he was for not only me this season, but for the future.

"It depends on him. Hopefully, he can renew because he's a player capable of making a difference in the next few years."

Xavi added on rumours suggesting Barca could also cash in on some midfield players: "We need them. They're players who are playing and none of them is for sale at all."

Barca beat Espanyol 1-0 in Xavi's first match in charge before a goalless draw with Benfica in the Champions League this week.

Their first away game under the former midfielder pits them against a side who have failed to win any of their previous 24 league matches with the Blaugrana.

Xavi has been impressed with his players' application but admits taking their chances is a concern, Barca having posted figures of 1.56 and 1.39 expected goals against Espanyol and Benfica without scoring from open play.

"I'm really happy with the team's reaction. We win a lot of duels, we're pressing well. I think in attack we have to be more daring," he said.

"We have players who are very young on the inside and have to dare more. I went through it at that age. There's a goal – I can see it in training.

"In general I'm quite satisfied with what I see on the pitch. We want to subdue the opposition and I think we're succeeding, but we have to score to win games."

Eddie Howe is set for his first Newcastle United game in the dugout after returning a negative COVID-19 test before the trip to Arsenal.

Former Bournemouth manager Howe was named Newcastle's new head coach on November 8, the first appointment by the Magpies following the club's Saudi-backed takeover.

However, Howe was forced to isolate after returning a positive coronavirus test, leaving Newcastle without their manager on the sideline for the first Premier League game of his tenure at home to Brentford.

Jason Tindall, Howe's assistant manager, and Graeme Jones, the previous interim coach after Steve Bruce's dismissal, led the team in that 3-3 draw, but Newcastle have confirmed Howe will be on the touchline at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Asked about Howe's return, Tindall told reporters on Friday: "You want your manager here with you. 

"We've missed him as a group of staff and I'm sure the players have missed seeing him at the training ground. We're certainly looking forward to having him back.

"Eddie has seen training back every day. We film it and that will then be sent to him in the afternoon to review it back, as will we as coaches. Then we will feed back what's necessary to the players the following day."

 Newcastle sit bottom of the league as the only side still without a win across England's top four tiers – their current winless run of 12 top-flight games is their longest since a run of 13 between December 2007 and March 2008.

No side have conceded more than Howe's new team in the Premier League this season (27), while the Magpies have lost 16 of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Arsenal.

Chelsea host Manchester United in the headline game of the weekend in the Premier League, with Sunday's showdown at Stamford Bridge a lip-smacking occasion.

Will United put the misery of their five defeats in seven domestic league games behind them and start afresh after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, or will it be the same old story for the Red Devils?

The threat comes from all quarters with Chelsea: Reece James and Antonio Rudiger may be as likely, if not more so, to score than Timo Werner, for example.

Leeds are boosted by the return from injury of Raphinha as they head to Brighton, while Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang face opponents against whom they have outstanding past records.

The pursuit of fantasy points is on, and here are suggestions for possible picks ahead of the weekend, powered by Opta data.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Will Manchester United's Champions League victory at Villarreal be a spur for them to find a way back to winning ways in the Premier League? Not if Reece James can help it.

Chelsea's exciting right wing-back was sufficiently impressive last term to make England's Euro 2020 squad, but he has gone to another level this time around, and a midweek goal against Juventus just confirmed his progression.

In the Premier League, James has been directly involved in eight goals this season, three more than in his previous 56 appearances in the competition across the last two seasons (5 - one goal, four assists). His total of involvements is higher than any other defender in the league in 2021-22, and United will be wary of that danger. Whether they can stop it remains to be seen.

ANTONIO RUDIGER (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Another Chelsea defender who provides value as an all-rounder, Rudiger provides Premier League fantasy points possibilities at both ends of the pitch.

Among Premier League defenders, only his Blues club-mates James (4) and Ben Chilwell (3) have scored more goals in the competition this season, while only Manchester City's Joao Cancelo (8) has registered more clean sheets than the German (7).

With Harry Maguire suspended and Raphael Varane injured, United seem likely to be susceptible to crosses from set-pieces, which is where Rudiger could come into his own.

RAPHINHA (Brighton and Hove Albion v Leeds United)

Leeds are hovering just above the bottom three, heading into the weekend, so to have Raphinha available will be a major boost to Marcelo Bielsa.

After missing the defeat at Tottenham last time out, the Brazil international is expected to be involved at Brighton this weekend as Leeds target a third win of the campaign.

They missed his creative influence in north London, with Leeds having won 45 per cent of their Premier League games in which Raphinha has featured (18/40) since his debut for the club in October 2020, They have won none of their six matches when he has been absent (D2 L4) and have averaged a measly 0.5 goals per game.

His 20 goal involvements in the league over the same period (11 goals, 9 assists) is second only at Leeds to Patrick Bamford (23 - 15 goals, 8 assists).

RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City v West Ham)

Has Raheem Sterling played himself into form for City? Three goals in his last three appearances across all competitions suggests that is the case for a player who struggled in the early weeks of the season, in the wake of his exploits at Euro 2020 with England.

Now, assuming he keeps his place in Pep Guardiola's starting line-up, Sterling gets to face one of his very favourite opponents when West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling has been involved in 11 goals in his last eight Premier League games against the Hammers (6 goals, 5 assists), hitting a hat-trick when the teams met in London on the opening day of the 2019-20 season.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Leicester City v Watford)

It was Emmanuel Dennis who inflicted the final blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, completing the rout as Watford whipped Manchester United 4-1 last Saturday.

The Nigerian appears to have been an outstanding acquisition from Club Brugge and Leicester will be wary of his menacing form ahead of a King Power Stadium tussle.

Dennis has scored four goals and assisted five more in just 11 Premier League appearances for Watford. Should he score in Sunday's game, he would become only the sixth player in Premier League history to reach both five goals and assists in 12 or fewer games, after Eric Cantona (11 games), Jurgen Klinsmann (12), Arjen Robben (11), Andrey Arshavin (10) and Bruno Fernandes (9).

JOSE SA (Norwich City v Wolves)

The handover of the Wolves goalkeeper job from Rui Patricio to fellow Portuguese Jose Sa has been seamless, and the new man between the sticks has been highly effective already in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea's Edouard Mendy (3.71) has prevented more goals in the PL this season than Sa (2.18). That is based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) metric, which assesses the quality of shots. On that basis, Sa would have been expected to concede 14.18 goals, but he has picked the ball out of the net just 12 times.

His 38 saves from 50 shots faced gives him a healthy 76 per cent success rate, beaten only by Mendy (88.57 per cent) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (78.95) so far this season. Norwich will do well to find a way past one of the most in-form glovesmen in the top flight.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal v Newcastle United)

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not scored or had an assist in his last three Premier League games, creating just one chance in 270 minutes.

But if there is any team he is going to score against, Newcastle would be close to the top of the list, and not merely because Eddie Howe's team are bottom of the table.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker has been involved in nine goals in his eight appearances for Arsenal against Newcastle in all competitions (6 goals, 3 assists), scoring in each of his last five games against the Magpies.

Mikel Arteta has invited Arsene Wenger to make a sensational Arsenal return as he claimed the Gunners "would be delighted to have him much closer".

Wenger was appointed Arsenal manager in 1996, leading the Gunners to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cup triumphs before his departure in 2018.

The Frenchman currently works as FIFA's chief of global football development, acting as a figurehead for world football's governing body.

Arteta played under Wenger for five years before retiring in 2016 and taking a coaching role with Manchester City, prior to accepting his first managerial job at Arsenal in December 2019.

After meeting the 72-year-old at the recent premiere of his film 'Arsene Wenger: Invincible', Arteta indicated he would welcome his former manager Wenger back to the club immediately.

"There has been communication, I saw him and talked to him when we went to see his film. It was incredibly pleasant to see him, to chat to him, and hopefully we can bring him close," Arteta told a news conference when asked about Wenger on Thursday.

"I think he would have a great time seeing the environment he could create around him.

"It is great when he comes around this place because of the respect and admiration everyone at the club has what for he has done and what he represents as a person for us."

Pressed for clarity on a potential role for Wenger, Arteta said: "I cannot tell you now, but what I can say is I would like him to be much closer, personally to me because he would be a great help for me and the club.

"But things take time, and he has to dictate those timings. What I can say, on behalf of everybody, is we would be delighted to have him much closer."

Arsenal are preparing to face strugglers Newcastle United on Saturday, having won 16 of their last 17 Premier League meetings with Eddie Howe's new side.

The Gunners have also never lost a game against the side starting the day bottom of the top-flight table, but Arteta has warned that Newcastle pose a different threat under Howe.

A 4-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend has set back the progress that Arsenal appeared to be making.

"We must play as good as we can, we will learn [from the Liverpool loss] and compete throughout the game," Arteta said.

"Let's keep going, it's a new game. There are some changes [at Newcastle]. You can see the momentum is building; it's different even in the last game they played.

"New manager, the new coaching staff – we need to be prepared. I admire Eddie and his style of play, Newcastle are not as poor as the table suggests.

"Their last few games could have all gone entirely different ways. With the attacking threats they have got in the final third, we are going to have to be really cautious and play as well as we can."

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